Jefferson Hack: ‘The future of fashion is full of jeopardy’

Hack, whose magazine Dazed became a counterculture style bible, talks about fashion, journalism, technology and his collaboration with Nasa

Jefferson Hack: “Nightclubs since the 1960s have been a laboratory for ideas that have gone on to influence popular culture. People who live in a subculture know what is going to happen in five years’ time.” Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty

Jefferson Hack: “Nightclubs since the 1960s have been a laboratory for ideas that have gone on to influence popular culture. People who live in a subculture know what is going to happen in five years’ time.” Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty

 

Jefferson Hack, founder of the influential British counterculture style bible Dazed & Confused, is a polished performer on stage. Despite the title of his magazine, he is anything but bewildered. Dressed casually in a varsity jacket, his thoughtful answers to questions about the meaning of style, sustainable fashion, the role of technology and the future of print media gave an insight into the mind of a “polymath with a curious mind who gets excited easily”.

He is also the creator of an international media empire, Dazed media, with his own advertising agency, MAD, and is known as a leading tastemaker who has a finger on the pulse of youth culture.

“People who step out of the system inspire me,” he says. “That feeling of safety is the antithesis of creativity. When everybody does the same thing, you get a cultural numbness. What we are celebrating is anything that breaks open that machine connecting with science, technology, literature and architecture.”

Style is the key to all creative processes, he argues. “If you don’t have style in your journalism or in your product, if it is not intrinsic to your process, it will not have your point of view.”

Since 2013, he has been a creative director with U2, responsible for the band’s Every Breaking Wave, directed by Aoife McArdle, which was shot in Belfast and has been nominated for a number of awards. His Dazed Media Studio makes creative content for brands including Chanel, Armani, Nike, Swarovski and Dunhill.

Dazed & Confused was founded by Hack and the photographer Rankin in 1991 and it established a reputation for identifying the next big things in fashion, art, literature and music and for its provocative features and photography. It is now called simply Dazed and is published six rather than 12 times annually. It is distributed in 41 countries and has offices in London and South Korea. In 2001 Hack launched AnOther, a biannual fashion and culture magazine that broke boundaries with a high-definition moving cover of Rihanna in a collaboration with technology giant PCH after a meeting with its founder, Irish man Liam Casey, in Dublin.

“Liam’s first question was, ‘What is the emotion you want to elicit with this?’ I replied, ‘A sense of wonder’. It was about exploring new territory with print, and a way for the reader to step in to the story generated by print in a multimedia way. It included a 45-minute soundtrack so you could listen with headphones. It became a design object, a light source and a way of giving more permanence to our storytelling,” he says.

“I wanted Rihanna [on the cover] to wink at a man [in a newsagent] 12m away who would say, ‘Holy shit, did I just see that or did I imagine it’ and then investigate . . .”

A forthcoming edition, to be launched at cult boutique Colette during Paris Fashion Week in March, will be harnessing state-of-the-art holographic imagery on its cover in a collaboration with “the most famous fashion designer in the world”, he says, although he will not reveal who that is. “It will celebrate our 15th anniversary and will be purely analogue, not a hardware device.”

Technology, how it changes channels of communication and how people use it is a constant preoccupation of Hack’s.

“Creating and connecting are conflicting forces. We have a knowledge base that is bigger than before. Fashion has got so big, and demand on designers much bigger. The future of fashion is conflicting and full of jeopardy. It is amazing at the same time, so it has a duality: positive and negative.

“The magazine is a souvenir of the live show, and the live show is what is happening online. We are living in a physical world, and people like to physically engage with an object, but we also live in a science-fiction world. Each has to adapt in relation to the other.”

Kate Moss and the next frontier

Hack is a former partner of Kate Moss, with whom he has a 13-year-old daughter. He is now in another exciting relationship, which started last June: an artistic programme with Nasa in the US. He has become a regular visitor to its micro-device department. “We are taking the opportunity to research new materials to leverage their science for a future creative project,” he says.

Such exploration and a relentless curiosity have been typical of Hack’s career. He attributes this to a peripatetic childhood, which began in Uruguay, where he was born, the son of a tobacco salesman. It continued in Singapore, Hong Kong and Belgium, before he ended up in the UK. His first style icon, at the age of 12, was Billy Idol. Music was what fashion and style meant to him growing up: glam rock, punk rock, the Clash. Malcolm McLaren, the late one-time manager of the Sex Pistols, was his mentor; from him he learned about the synergy of culture, art, fashion, music and nightlife.

“Nightclubs since the 1960s have been a laboratory for ideas that have gone on to influence popular culture. People who live in a subculture know what is going to happen in five years’ time,” he says.

In his opinion, people who have pushed boundaries include Björk, Tilda Swinton and film-maker Adam Curtis. In the modern fashion world he puts Eckhaus Latta in New York, Grace Wales Bonner in London and Iris Van Herpen in Paris in the same category. He admires Miuccia Prada and Rei Kawakubo for “managing their creativity within a commercial framework” and thinks Vetements in Paris is a real vision of a cult movement in fashion.

“Clothing is an ambassador of ideas,” says Hack. “We have to compete for your attention, and the main thing is evolving what a magazine is. Monetising digital is very hard. Quality journalism costs money and if we lose investigative journalism, we lose the heart of democracy . . .” he breaks off, hesitating to discuss politics further.

That attitude ties in with his progressive and subversive ideas about society. He is now in full flow.

“We are no longer judges of [society’s] binary ideas of gender. Gender fluidity and sexual preferences say that we are taking the choice of what we want to be into our own hands. If you don’t get that there is a new culture, if you are pro-cultural stereotypes, you become pro-cultural oppression and are complicit in that mindset. You are anti-change, and I have to say: f*** that. We are pro-diversity because without that society does not change. People are now feeling more empowered. It’s about individual choice coming to the fore.”

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